The ingredients of a perfect audio tour

You can keep VoiceMap tours simple and still delight listeners. Perfectly polished scripts and studio recordings do sometimes help, but you don’t need technical expertise or a project budget to produce a memorable audio tour. Just get the basics right and work out how your route and all the locations on it tell a story that, as a whole, is greater than the sum of its parts.

Get the basics right   #

Plan a route with a few surprises #

Take the scenic route, especially if you can guide listeners to interesting places they’d never have thought to visit without your tour. But even if you’re only connecting Obvious Location A with Obvious Location B, take them off the beaten track – and for bonus points, make it feel like you’re sharing a secret! 

Be authentic before you worry about being polished #

Producers are often shy about their voice, and some start out saying they’ll get their tour recorded by a professional voice artist. Some even try to persuade us that a robotic text-to-speech voice sounds better than they do. This is almost never the case, and more importantly, it prevents you from using one of your most important tools.

When you speak as yourself, or your community, you can be subjective. You can say things like “I remember how” and “we love it when”. This invites listeners to share the local point of view and makes your insights more intimate and accessible. Audiences don’t expect a radio voice with singsong delivery these days anyway, mostly because of podcasts – and ads read by the host of a podcast actually perform better than ads with the polished voice of a professional

Develop a narrative by establishing context early and expanding on it later #

VoiceMap tours typically follow a route. They start somewhere specific and go through a sequence of locations to end somewhere specific. This has technical advantages, and you obviously can’t have a route with a few surprises without having a route in the first place, but progress from beginning to middle to end also gives you an opportunity to tell a story that is larger than any single point of interest. Use it. 

Tease out the themes of your tour and speak to them directly. They’ll help you decide what to include or exclude and give listeners a better sense of a neighbourhood’s identity. Come back to something you’ve already described, but this time nudge your listeners to make the link themselves. They’ll feel like they’ve learnt something. And use the fact that you know things your listeners do not to build tension. They don’t even know where they’re going next, and cliffhangers can get them excited about going from location to location. 

Bring it all together with a climax at a particularly captivating or significant location  #

This tip is at the end of the list, but it actually makes more sense to think about this first. What location are you most excited to show your listeners, and how do you want them to feel when they’re there? How do you get them there – both as a matter of fact, by guiding them along your route, but also emotionally – and what do they need to know for it all to make sense? 

If you work backwards from your climax, the outline of your delightful tour might fall into place.

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